54 Movies Like The French Dispatch (2021) (Page 3)

Staff & contributors

Whether or not you’re familiar with director Pedro Almodóvar’s body of work, Parallel Mother stands as a gorgeous melodrama, a striking story about motherhood and our ties to the past. On one level, it’s a simple but engaging drama about a misunderstanding that ensues between two women. But on another, it’s a deep dive into a nation’s cruel history, as well as an observation of people’s commitment to never letting that part of themselves go. 

The film references Almodóvar’s past films but it also works as a standalone, a perfect starting point for moviegoers interested in exploring his oeuvre. Of course, Penelope Cruz continues to be a powerhouse, each line delivery an emotional gut punch, while relative newcomer Milena Smit is stirring, a true revelation, as her director calls her.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adelfa Calvo, Agustín Almodóvar, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Ana Peleteiro, Arantxa Aranguren, Carmen Flores, Chema Adeva, Daniela Santiago, Inma Ochoa, Israel Elejalde, José Javier Domínguez, Julieta Serrano, Milena Smit, Penélope Cruz, Rossy de Palma, Trinidad Iglesias

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

Daniel Day-Lewis earned his breakout performance as Johnny, a reformed skinhead in this tale of  interracial gay romance in Thatcher’s Britain. Gordon Warnecke plays Johnny's lover Omar, the aimless son of a Pakistani intellectual who is given a leg-up by a successful uncle when he’s put in charge of rescuing a failing laundrette in gritty South London. Remarkably, Omar and Johnny’s romance isn’t presented as all that transgressive; far more central are the experiences and attitudes towards “assimilation” of Omar’s British-Pakistani family, the elders of whom live double lives and indulge both their financial and sexual greed. My Beautiful Laundrette is transgressive in many ways, but mostly in the dizzying array of tensions it sets its sights on — racial, ideological, class, generational, and gender — an ambitious quality that can, admittedly, overwhelm at times. But ambition is an admirable flaw for a film to have, particularly one as sharp and groundbreaking as this.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ayub Khan-Din, Badi Uzzaman, Bhasker Patel, Charu Bala Chokshi, Chris Pitt, Colin Campbell, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dawn Archibald, Derrick Branche, Dulice Liecier, Garry Cooper, Gerard Horan, Gordon Warnecke, Gurdial Sira, Jonathan Moore, Neil Cunningham, Nisha Kapur, Ram John Holder, Richard Graham, Rita Wolf, Roshan Seth, Saeed Jaffrey, Shirley Anne Field, Souad Faress, Stephen Marcus, Walter Donohue

Director: Stephen Frears

Despite being based on a 19th-century serial novel, Lost Illusions feels remarkably close to contemporary concerns about fake news and the devaluing of art for profit. But as the story is also, obviously, set in the 19th century, all this bribery and these backdoor dealings are done entirely through the written word and by sending runners from one Parisian theater to the next—and the result is uniquely thrilling. Nearly every character is a terrible person (like in an old-timey Goodfellas way) and it can get tiring seeing the film glorify their hustle, but the energy it brings is rare to find in any other period drama.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Alexis Barbosa, André Marcon, Benjamin Voisin, Candice Bouchet, Cécile de France, Édouard Michelon, Gaëlle Lebert, Gérard Depardieu, Isabelle De Hertogh, Jean-François Stévenin, Jean-Marie Frin, Jean-Paul Bordes, Jean-Paul Muel, Jeanne Balibar, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Maryne Bertieaux, Michèle Clément, Pierre Poirot, Saïd Amadis, Salomé Dewaels, Vincent Lacoste, Xavier Dolan

Director: Xavier Giannoli

This HBO mockumentary is part-pastiche of the mythologising sports documentary, part-zany comic creation of its own. Tour de Pharmacy tells the incredible untrue story of the 1982 Tour de France, the most chaotic iteration of the race that never happened. Of the original 170 cyclists, all but five were disqualified for bribing the deep-in-debt president of cycling’s governing body (Kevin Bacon), leaving only Italian-a sensation-a JuJu Peppi (Orlando Bloom); secret female racer Adrian Baton (Julia Ormond and Freddie Highmore); frustrated nephew of Jackie Robinson, Slim (Daveed Diggs); a roided-out Austrian (John Cena); and Marty Hass (Andy Samberg), a Nigerian cyclist despised by his country.

Tragedy, scandal, and surprising romance unfold across the documentary’s chronicling of the race’s 21 stages, with plenty of digressions along the way — from a riotous interview with the head of the sport’s anti-doping agency (played by Nathan Fielder) to an animated explanation of red and white cells that devolves into a surreally bloody civil war. The humor zooms between the high-brow (French New Wave references delivered by JJ Abrams) and the R-rated from scene to scene, making this breezy mockumentary a wild ride of its own.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, TV Movie

Actor: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Andy Samberg, Chris Romano, Chris Webber, Danny Glover, Daveed Diggs, Dolph Lundgren, Edgar Wright, Eric Nenninger, Eugenia Kuzmina, Freddie Highmore, J.J. Abrams, James Marsden, Jeff Goldblum, Joe Buck, John Cena, Jon Hamm, Julia Ormond, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Clash, Lance Armstrong, Maya Rudolph, Mike Tyson, Myles Brewer, Nathan Fielder, Orlando Bloom, Phylicia Rashād, Rebecca Dayan, Russ Walko, Seth Morris, Will Forte

Director: Jake Szymanski

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Daniel Williamson, Eddie Plaza, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jered Meeks, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert

Director: Elegance Bratton

Rating: R

Two misfits, an immigrant and a traveling cook, team up to start an unlikely enterprise in this slow but captivating drama. The story, set in 19th century Pacific Northwest, evolves around the arrival of the first cow to that part of the world. This presents a unique opportunity that the two main characters try to benefit from. 

First Cow is a mix between a Western and a modern-day plot-less indie drama.  It has likable characters, stunning scenery, and a fascinating look into how social outcasts lived back then.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Don MacEllis, Dylan Smith, Eric Martin Reid, Ewen Bremner, Gary Farmer, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Jeb Berrier, John Keating, John Magaro, Kevin-Michael Moore, Lily Gladstone, Mary Ann Perreira, Mike Wood, Mitchell Saddleback, Orion Lee, Patrick D. Green, Phelan Davis, Rene Auberjonois, Scott Shepherd, T. Dan Hopkins, Ted Rooney, Toby Jones, Todd A. Robinson

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: PG-13

With its origins as a full-length rock monologue, it's understandable if Tick, Tick... Boom! comes off as overly concerned with its protagonist's personal anxieties and not the larger social and health crises happening right outside his door. But while it really doesn't offer much insight into the AIDS epidemic, or even the art scene of 1990s New York, the helplessness that Jonathan Larson feels in the face of his own inability to save the world comes off as honest expression nonetheless. Andrew Garfield and a strong cast that includes Robin de Jesús and Vanessa Hudgens give purpose and energy to this somewhat messy character study that still manages to land its emotional beats.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Adam Pascal, Alex Lacamoire, Alexandra Shipp, André De Shields, Andrew Garfield, Bebe Neuwirth, Ben Levi Ross, Bernadette Peters, Beth Malone, Bradley Whitford, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chad Beguelin, Chita Rivera, Christopher Jackson, Chuck Cooper, Danielle Ferland, Danny Burstein, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Eddy Lee, Ehizoje Azeke, Eisa Davis, Elizabeth Chestang, Gizel Jimenez, Howard McGillin, Ilia Jessica Castro, Jeanine Tesori, Jelani Alladin, Joanna Adler, Joel Grey, Joel Perez, Jonathan Larson, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Joshua Henry, Judith Light, Judy Kuhn, Ken Holmes, Laura Benanti, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marc Shaiman, Mason Versaw, Micaela Diamond, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Nick Blaemire, Phillipa Soo, Phylicia Rashād, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Ricardo Zayas, Richard Kind, Robin de Jesús, Roger Bart, Ryan Vasquez, Sheila Tapia, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Levenson, Tariq Trotter, Tom Kitt, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Vanessa Hudgens, Wilson Jermaine Heredia

Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Rating: PG-13

In Compartment Number 6, two different people strike an unlikely friendship during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk. One is Laura, a Finnish student looking to observe ancient rock carvings at their destination, and the other is Ljoha, a gruff miner who hopes to secure a job once there. While the pair are initially unable to get on the same page, their friction eventually lends way to curiosity and empathy, especially as they learn more about each other and life itself.

It’s a great film to put on if you’re a fan of smart but subdued movies like the Before trilogy and Lost in Translation, and there is a lot to mine beyond their already-rich conversations, especially in terms of class and romance. It’s little wonder then that this delightful two-hander shares the 2021 Grand Prix award with another brilliant piece of art, Asghar Farhadi's A Hero.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Denis Pyanov, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova, Konstantin Murzenko, Natalia Drozd, Polina Aug, Seidi Haarla, Sergey Agafonov, Tomi Alatalo, Valeriy Nikolaev, Yuliya Aug, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Juho Kuosmanen

Rating: R

Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There, Carol), The Velvet Underground takes an avant-garde approach to tell the story of the 1960s rock band. Like their music, nothing about this documentary is linear and expected. Screens are split to show two different things at once, seemingly unrelated clips are stitched to create a patchwork of feelings, and strobes of light flash multiple times onscreen. It's like an art installation come to life.

The film is dynamic and dazzling, infused with the same underground atmosphere as their early performances. If you’re looking to know more about the band, this film might not be for you. But if you’re looking to experience the band, to feel and see and hear what it was like to catch them at their peak, then this is for you.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Allen Ginsberg, Amy Taubin, Andy Warhol, Bill Graham, Billy Name, Cass Elliot, Danny Fields, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Jackson Browne, John Cale, John Waters, Jonas Mekas, Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed, Marian Zazeela, Mary Woronov, Maureen Tucker, Nico, Sterling Morrison, Tony Conrad

Director: Todd Haynes

This is a hard movie to describe, but I’ll do my best without giving too much away. The movie takes place in three separate segments that eventually come together. Half of the story takes place in Germany, half in Turkey, with almost all of the central six characters spending time in both countries while either searching for each other or trying to redeem themselves. Daughters search for their mothers (and vice versa) and one character’s actions will eventually bring everything more-or-less full circle. The film is as much about the characters though as it is about the cultural exchange happening between the two countries. If you have even a passing interest in films from this part of the world, I recommend giving this one a try.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ali Akdeniz, Annette Uhlen, Baki Davrak, Cengiz Daner, Erkan Can, Feridun Koç, Gökhan Kıraç, Gürsoy Gemec, Güven Kiraç, Hanna Schygulla, İdil Üner, Lars Rudolph, Nejat İşler, Nurgül Yeşilçay, Nursel Köse, Önder Çakar, Öznur Kula, Patrycia Ziolkowska, Tuncel Kurtiz, Turgay Tanülkü, Yelda Reynaud

Director: Fatih Akin

Rating: Unrated

In Last Night in Soho, director Edgar Wright has so much to play with. The old lady character serves an unexpected role, while Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) faces an interesting morality crisis as she tries to decide who to help at the end of the film. Just as fascinating is the film’s Ghibli-esque premise: we follow a hero going on an adventure far away from home and into a world where it's unclear where reality ends and fantasy begins. However, a lot of the time, it feels like the film was made to serve a big twist that doesn't have enough weight to it. The fantasy is far more intriguing than any tame interaction the film has to offer, so it doesn't feel like it lives up to its potential. But there is one obvious exception: Anya Taylor-Joy’s magnetic presence as Sandie—it’s a presence powerful enough to hold a film together.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Al Roberts, Alan Ruscoe, Andrew Bicknell, Anya Taylor-Joy, Celeste Dring, Colin Mace, Derek Lea, Diana Rigg, Elizabeth Berrington, Jacqui-Lee Pryce, James Phelps, Jessie Mei Li, Josh Zaré, Katrina Vasilieva, Lati Gbaja, Lisa McGrillis, Margaret Nolan, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Michael Jibson, Michael Mears, Oliver Phelps, Paul Brightwell, Pauline McLynn, Rita Tushingham, Sam Claflin, Sam Parks, Synnøve Karlsen, Terence Stamp, Thomasin McKenzie

Director: Edgar Wright

Rating: R

, 2012

Boy is the highest-grossing New Zealand film of all time, and a masterpiece of compassion and good humor. Set in New Zealand's rural East Coast in 1984, the film's protagonist, Boy, imagines a world outside, dreaming of meeting Michael Jackson and having adventures. These fantasies serve to distract him from the sad circumstances of his life, living with his grandmother while his father serves out a prison sentence. However, adventure comes to Boy suddenly when his ex-convict father returns to find a long hidden bag of money. Written, directed, and starring Taika Waitit and featuring the new comer James Rolleston as Boy, it's a hilarious and heartwarming tale.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Cherilee Martin, Chris Graham, Cohen Holloway, Craig Hall, Darcy Ray Flavell-Hudson, Haze Rewiti, Hoanihuhi Takotohiwi, James Rolleston, Jarod Rawiri, Maakariini Butler, Madeleine Sami, Manaia Callaghan, Mavis Paenga, Moerangi Tihore, Ngapaki Emery, Pana Hema-Taylor, Rachel House, Rajvinder Eria, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Stu Rutherford, Stuart Rutherford, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Tuhoro Ranihera Christie, Waimihi Hotere

Director: Taika Waititi, Topaz Adizes

Rating: Not Rated

In the Mexican film A Cop Movie, director Alonso Ruizpalacios mixes fact and fiction, documentary and narrative, to tell the tale of Teresa and Montoya, two police officers whose dreams are dashed by the corruption of their trade and who, eventually, find love and comfort in each other.

Ruizpalacios takes thrilling risks in structuring this genre-bending story—cutting stories into parts, jumping back and forth between the harrowingly real and captivatingly non-real. For all the experimental maneuvers he makes, however, the through-line is always Teresa and Montoya: particularly, their love for each other and for an institution that should have, in an ideal world, supported them and the people they vowed to protect. 

To its credit, instead of merely humanizing the controversial police force, A Cop Movie adds some much-needed nuance to the big picture. At the end of the day, they’re no different than any other underpaid laborers working desperately to make end meets. A Cop Movie doesn’t gloss over the fact that the police, like so many other workers, are stuck in a rotten system that’s long overdue for a major overhauling. 

Genre: Action, Crime, Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Leonardo Alonso, Mónica Del Carmen, Olivia Lagunas, Raúl Briones

Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

Rating: R

It's an incredible story, but it's one that only really deserves to be told a certain way, which director Arthur Harari gets right. Onoda's one-man crusade to continue World War II is nothing short of delusional, and Harari spends most of the film following the soldier as his companions die one by one, worsening his delusions even further. Unfortunately, even with how impressively strange this story is, 10,000 Nights in the Jungle still misses the opportunity to look through the lens of Onoda's victims. He is, after all, a literal embodiment of colonization's lingering effects, so it's sad that the Philippines here is just window dressing more than anything.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, History, War

Actor: Angeli Bayani, Chiba Tetsuya, Issey Ogata, Kai Inowaki, Kanji Tsuda, Kuu Izima, Kyūsaku Shimada, Mutsuo Yoshioka, Nobuhiro Suwa, Ryu Morioka, Shinsuke Kato, Taiga Nakano, Tomomitsu Adachi, Yuya Endo, Yuya Matsuura

Director: Arthur Harari

Isle of Dogs has all the hallmarks of a Wes Anderson picture—it's stylish, otherworldly, and deadpan hilarious. But the film is also uniquely its own thing, a stop-motion animation deeply and gorgeously immersed in Japanese history and lore. Instead of merely relegating culture in the background for mere aesthetic purposes (as Anderson has done in the past with The Darjeeling Limited), culture here plays a vital role in the adventure and overall plot of the film. It's up to the viewer to decide whether Isle of Dogs is a case of appropriation or appreciation, but what can't be denied is that this is a movie with a strong and unforgettable bite to it. 

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akira Takayama, Alex Orman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Chris Benz, Courtney B. Vance, Edward Norton, Elaiza Ikeda, Erica Dorn, F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens, Frances McDormand, Frank Wood, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, Kara Hayward, Ken Watanabe, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Liev Schreiber, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Roman Coppola, Ryuhei Matsuda, Scarlett Johansson, Shota Matsuda, Taichi Kodama, Takayuki Yamada, Tilda Swinton, Yojiro Noda, Yoko Ono

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: PG-13